He’s a brainy surname with a quirky, cool vibe.
Thanks to Silent One for suggesting Darwin as our Baby Name of the Day.
Ages ago, I thought someone had requested Darwin, and started working on a post in an idle moment, briefly mentioning it somewhere out there. But it wasn’t so – it was one of those names floating around in the back of my brain. Silent One was kind enough to remember my offhanded comment, and so this post is finally seeing the light of day.
- The -win ending was very common for Anglo-Saxon men: Baldwin, Edwin, Oswin. All three of those names were worn by kings, and so are visible in the historical record. Darwin is far less prominent, but not unknown. The -win ending comes from wine – friend, and the first syllable from deor – dear;
- Lancashire’s River Darwen is immortalized in a John Milton poem, and lent its name to a town built on its banks. This Darwen has a separate origin. An earlier spelling – Darwent – suggests it relates to the Old Welsh derwenyd – valley of oaks – or possibly a combination of the Old Welsh for water – dwr – plus gwyn – fair, for the meaning “clear water.” However, Darwen is now pronounced without the “w” sound, like Darren, so chances are it isn’t inspiring parents to consider Darwin today.
But mostly, Darwin brings to mind Charles Darwin. His grandfathers were Erasmus Darwin, a noted physician and social reformer, and Josiah Wedgwood, the potter-turned-industrialist. Charles considered a medical career, but found his studies dull. He sidestepped his father’s attempts to persuade him to train as a clergyman.
Instead, Charles studied the natural sciences, publishing his sketches of beetles, taking a trip to Wales with his geology class. Eventually signed on to the crew of the HMS Beagle as a gentleman naturalist, paying for the privilege of spending five years sketching and collecting fossils while the Beagle conducted its survey of the South American coast, as well as several islands.
It was a game-changer. A beginner when the Beagle set sail, by the time he’d returned, Darwin was established in scientific circles. He edited the five volume set, published between 1838 and 1843: The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Under the Command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N., during the years 1832 to 1836. Later, Darwin’s theory of natural selection was promoted in his 1859 On the Origin of the Species, and he changed the very bedrock of how we think about evolution.
Choosing Darwin for a son could honor the scientist, or possibly one of the places named in his honor, like:
- A glacier in Antarctica;
- Colleges in England;
- An oil field in Azerbaijan;
- In California, a waterfall and a protected wilderness area in the Mojave Desert;
- A town in Zimbabwe;
- One of the Galápagos Islands.
That’s at least one place on every continent, including Darwin, Australia – pictured above.
Darwin has ranked in the US Top 1000 more years than not, peaking in 1938 at #297. Today he stands at #729, a modest comeback since the early 90s, when he teetered on the edge of obscurity.
His modest revival may be attributed to the 2009 biopic Creation, featuring Paul Bettany as Darwin.